Last year there were 70,000 overdose deaths in the United States. Ardmore Assistant Chief of Police Kevin Norris shared this statistic with the crowd gathered at the Carter County Substance Abuse Memorial at Central Park on Monday evening.

Norris and two other speakers addressed the community about the growing epidemic of drug abuse and the efforts being made to prevent its continued growth. Also in attendance were representatives from several local organizations that provided information about the services they offer to those struggling with addiction.

Norris spoke first and updated the crowd on the efforts currently underway at the Ardmore Police Department to make the community a safer place. One major component is the training all APD officers have received in the dispensing of Naloxone, a drug that rapidly reverses opioid overdoses. The new training has already saved two lives.

“Just the week before last, we had our second documented save,” Norris said. He went on to describe their first save a few months ago.

“We talked to the family of the loved one who had overdosed, and they themselves said that if not for the officers showing up and giving the Naloxone, their loved one would have died,” Norris said. 

Norris said it is situations like this that make police officer’s jobs so much more than taking people to jail. “It’s about reaching the community and saving people. It’s about doing our job, giving to the community, and giving back,” said Norris.

Norris concluded his speech by letting the audience know that officers are being continually sent to new training as they strive to discover what exactly they can do to make the community safer. He said medication take backs are a large part of this process.

“We’re doing our part, and we ask you to help us,” Norris said. “We want to get as many of the pills and the unwanted, unused medication off the street as we can.”

Next to speak was Amber Chavez, executive director of The Landing, a support group for teens. They currently see 40 to 60 teenagers a week from the area, and Chavez described the special way they work with the teens.

“We’re able to talk to them at eye level,” Chavez said. “We’re don’t look down on them and say this is how you should do this.” Instead, the counselors let the teens know how they have handled similar situations themselves. 

“They can come to us and say, ‘you know, I’ve screwed up,’ and we let them know it’s ok,” Chavez said. “It’s about how we can make progress and do better in the future.”

The final speaker was David Tolbert, a recovering addict. He described how with with the help of drug court and the help of God, he was able to turn his life around.

“The problem with addiction is it’s a war, and it’s a war that most people aren’t prepared to fight,” Tolbert said. “We don’t know who all the players are or what the causes are. Through God, treatment and working as a peer recovery specialist, I’ve been able to fight that war and successfully win battle after battle.”

The Carter County Substance Abuse Prevention Committee, in association with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department and the Ardmore Police Department, will be hosting their 2nd Annual Mobile Take Back Event on Nov. 6 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule a pickup,  call (580) 768-3544 by noon on November 2.